15 November 2008 | Johor Bahru
Sail Malaysia began their first event. What a class act they are, just the opposite from Sail Indonesia! Had a briefing Friday afternoon where we received gift bags with t-shirts, hats, flags, and a burgee as well as very detailed information about sailing up Malaysia's west coast and her marinas. And they fed us at the briefing - beverages, sandwiches, noodles, and mystery desserts!
Saturday we boarded our A/C luxury bus at 8 AM for a whirlwind tour of the area - with a police escort no less. Felt extremely privileged traveling with sirens holding traffic while we ran red lights. We were photographed on the steps of Sultan Ibrahim Administration Building with local dignitaries and visited museums, a national park, a gorgeous Muslim mosque built in British style, a colorful Hindu temple, and had prawn lunch in Kukup, a fishing village in the Southwest point of Malaysia's peninsula.
Then in the afternoon we visited a tapioca cracker factory (had snacks), a bee farm (ate fresh honeycomb with wax), and were entertained by traditional dancers at a home stay while we had "tea" with delicacies prepared by the local ladies. Our terrific tour guide was Eeleen who made the country live for us as she described the country's agriculture as we drove through it and discussed the distant mountains where we might see Sumatran rhinos, clouded leopards, tigers, sun bear, honey deer, black panther, wild elephant, hundreds of birds, 6 types of monkey, and the orangutan of course.
Got back just in time to clean up for our barbeque dinner! The welcoming ceremonies took only 5 minutes. They were smart enough to feed us as the entertainment began - more traditional dancers alternating with a rock band. Chicken and shrimp on the grill, a huge salad, Malay rice and noodle dishes, and FREE beer. If they keep feeding us like this, we can cut provisioning in half.
The entire day we were treated as if we were royalty, enjoying their hospitality with no surprise hidden costs to us as we'd experienced before. Sail Malaysia photographed and interviewed 120 very happy cruisers who I'm sure will be included in their "Visit Malaysia 2009" brochure.
Cheers to new countries, cultures, and gastronomic treats! KK